HANCOCK COUNTY — When tragedy strikes, the law enforcement community bands together, with officers and other first-responders flooding in from across the state to offer aid as their fellow officers grieve.
Local police officers and 911 dispatchers were among those who pitched in to help after a Boone County Sheriff’s deputy was killed in the line of duty last week.
Deputy Jacob Pickett was fatally shot during a foot chase in Lebanon on March 2. He was kept alive until Monday, so his organs could be donated, according to The Associated Press.
Friday, hundreds of the officers from across the state — including several from Hancock County — went to Brownsburg to pay their respects to the 34-year-old married father of two.
Local dispatchers helped organize volunteers from across the region to man Boone County’s 911 center so Boone County dispatchers could attend Pickett’s funeral service.
John Jokantas, director of communications for the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, said that, after learning Pickett would not survive, he reached out to Boone County to offer assistance and contacted 911 centers from around Central Indiana — all centers he knew utilized the same emergency dispatching software as Boone County — to recruit volunteers.
So, from midday Thursday to early Saturday, Boone County’s dispatch center was manned by telecommunicators from Hancock, Hamilton, Howard, Montgomery, Shelby and Vigo counties, as well as a few from the Zionsville Fire Department, Jokantas said.
And everyone involved was glad to help Boone County in its time of need, Jokantas said, to give their colleagues time with to be their families.
Members of local law enforcement showed support for their peers in Boone County in various ways this week.
Flags outside local police departments were lowered to half-staff, and officers put black bands on their badges and pendants on their patrol cars, all signs of respect for the fallen officer and his department.
Greenfield, Cumberland, McCordsville and New Palestine police departments, as well as the local sheriff’s department, sent their respective departments’ uniform patches to nonprofit organization Indiana Going Blue, which uses the patches to make quilts for the families of fallen police officers.
The organization announced after Pickett’s death that they’d be making quilts for Pickett’s two young children, and put on plea on social media for departments to send patches as a show of support. According to the group’s Facebook page, they received dozens of patches from law enforcement agencies near and far, including departments in Los Angeles and El Paso.
Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Harrison and Greenfield Police Officer Danny Williams, who are trained to help counsel their peers through tough times, went to Boone County Friday after Pickett was shot and again on Thursday during the officer’s visitation to visit with and console officers there.
Harrison said their work those days was to ensure the men and women in uniform there knew they weren’t alone, knew it was OK to cry — whatever they needed to do to deal with their pain.
There are local officers mourning Pickett, too, Harrison said. At least three Hancock County Sheriff’s deputies knew Pickett personally, having met him at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy or during various statewide trainings.
Harrison said he’s checked in on those deputies, too, and will continue to do so as they deal with loss of their friend.
But the heaviness of Pickett’s death — and the deaths of police officers across the county recently — will weigh on officers as they take to streets every day, Sheriff Mike Shepherd said.
So far this year, 24 police officers have been killed in the U.S., according to the National Police Officer’s Memorial.
That amounts to one about every three day this year.
And though social media can be helpful in these times — it’s nice to see the thoughts and prayers from across the nation that pour out over Facebook and Twitter after an officers death, Shepherd said — it can also be a burden, a constant source of reminders of just how risky a police officer’s job can be, he said.
So, they’ll all watch out over each other in the coming weeks to make sure burdens of the job aren’t overshadowing the things that make being a police officer great, Shepherd and Harrison said.
“We’re all brothers and sisters,” Harrison said. “We might wear different uniforms, but we’re all in this together.”
FORTVILLE — They lined the hallways, dressed in blue, and cheered as their community’s heroes walked through the doors — a sign on appreciation during a week of sadness.
Students and teachers at Fortville Elementary School welcomes officers from the Fortville Police Department into their building this week, greeting them with cards, crayon-colored pictures and handwritten notes of thanks.
Fortville Lt. Pat Bratton said the students’ and staff’s kindness was a welcomed highlight during a tough week, as Fortville and law enforcement agencies across the region mourned the death of a Boone County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jacob Pickett, who was fatally shot recently.
Police work can sometimes feel like a thankless job, Bratton said; but the sea of blue that greeted them at the school was a reminder that the town’s residents do support the police force.
“It’s nice to be appreciated,” he said.